When my sister told me she wanted our family to adopt a 2-year-old pit bull mix from our local shelter, I was hesitant. In fact, my whole family was.
The first time we went to the humane society to meet Peaches, I wasn’t sure how to approach her. Will she be aggressive if I try to pet her? Will she try to bite?
“If you’re going to be too scared of her, we don’t have to adopt her,” my mom said.
The thing about pit bulls is that the reputation that precedes them isn’t always accurate. I totally misjudged her. Peaches was the sweetest, most laid back dog I’d ever met.
My extended family didn’t warm up to her as quickly, though.
“I’m sure your dog is nice, until it bites your face off,” my aunt told my sister.
Now I feel it’s my mission to shed light on the unfair reputation the breed faces.
Although they are often associated with gangs, dog fighting and vicious attacks, an article on Yahoo! states that pit bulls used to be known as “nanny dogs” for their gentleness and loving personality, illustrating that mistreatment and abuse is often what causes these dogs to snap. Acting violently isn’t in their natural disposition. Peaches was a perfect example.
She would let my friend’s 2-year-old son pet and play with her, would snuggle up to anyone who sat on our couch and would even let our cats share her bed. It was hard to imagine that people could not like her solely because of what breed of dog she was.
But three years later and despite the growing popularity of shows like “Pit Bulls and Parolees” helping to change public opinion, I still encounter people who react negatively when it comes to these dogs.
Maybe it’s because of the fear that has been built up around pit bulls. Or maybe it’s the fact that stories about the softer side of this breed are hardly ever published in mainstream media while the story of a pit bull attacking someone is quickly circulated and shared.
Whenever our cat, Miley, would try to snuggle with Peaches by purring and brushing up against her, Peaches would just calmly sit there. She never barked or snapped. She would let Miley cuddle up right under her face, not even so much as nudging her to get away.
And still, shelters are flooded with pit bulls whom may never be adopted solely because of their reputation.
Shortly after Peaches passed away, my family and I adopted Frankie, a pit bull and cattle dog mix from an animal rescue in Rochester, N.Y.
The reaction I get when talking about this new addition to my family still surprises me. What should be a happy conversation tends to go a lot like this:
“That’s so exciting! What kind of puppy did you get?”
As soon as I say she’s a pit bull mix, their disposition changes and a look of shock or confusion flashes across their face. As they try to recover and pretend to be excited, I’m already frustrated.
Most of them have never met Frankie. They don’t know that she is a perfectly normal puppy that goes to weekly training classes, socializes with other dogs and loves to play. They just assume that because she is part pit bull, she must be aggressive and bad tempered.
I wish that people would take the chance to get to know this breed before jumping to this conclusion. Whether that be by visiting a local shelter to talk to the staff or getting introduced to a breed ambassador, allowing them to meet a pit bull in a controlled setting.
Maybe then they would see dogs like Peaches and Frankie for the loving, adorable pets they are—and understand what they aren’t.